One Of Chevy Chase's Most Famous Saturday Night Live Bits Sent Him Straight To The Hospital

Right out of the gate, Chevy Chase became a household name and the clear standout performer when "Saturday Night Live" premiered in the fall of 1975. As the first anchor of Weekend Update, Chase had the most prominent screen time out of anyone in the cast and, instantaneously, his frat-boy good looks and unique comedic timing were beamed into the living rooms of millions of Americans. His persona seemed to be the most relatable to the average viewer. John Belushi was a little frightening, Danny Aykroyd looked way too amped up, Jane Curtain was too intimidating, and Gilda Radner was just too smart. Chase was just like the popular kid at school that would make you laugh over a couple of beers. 

One of the main reasons audiences would stay home and tune in every week was to see the daring prat falls that Chase would commit with reckless abandon. His portrayal of President Gerald Ford towards the end of his one-term presidency helped to solidify Ford's image as the Oaf in Chief, causing further damage to his 1976 re-election campaign against Jimmy Carter. In fake debates alongside Aykroyd's country bumpkin impression of Carter, Chase would trip and fall all over the podium and crash into his desk to make Ford appear even more incompetent. That dedication to physical comedy had its price, and Chase sustained fairly serious injuries one night on air that sent him to the hospital where he performed the opening montage from bed the following week. 

Live from New York, and the hospital

In the biography "Wild and Crazy Guys" by author Nick de Semlyen, Chase described the accident that took place in 1976 on the September 18th episode of "SNL" hosted my Lili Tomlin, with musical guest James Taylor waiting in the wings. The skit, featuring Aykroyd as Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter and Chase as President Ford, went awry at the very end of their mock debate when Chase toppled over his prop lectern, sending him head first into a block of wood. "The prop guy, his name was Willy Day and he was about eighty-eight, and he'd forgotten to take out a middle portion of the lectern," recalled Chase. "So when I fell into it, I went right into a board. It hit me right in the tonsils. I was in the hospital for a week, peeing blood." Ouch.

Whether or not Willy Day, the all-time prop man in Studio 8H, was a little absent-minded or the board didn't break away at a crucial moment remains to be seen. Chase would go on to win two Emmys for his work on "SNL," but the accident may have contributed to him leaving the show. Chase's last appearance was on October 30th, 1976, just a little over a month after the accident. Interestingly, the late Buck Henry would host that night and suffer an injury after Belushi accidentally sliced his head open with a katana sword in the infamous "Samurai Stockbroker" skit. Later on in the episode, the entire cast, as well as Chase, wore head bandages in a show of solidarity and support for Henry who insisted on going on with the show. 

"Saturday Night Live" returns next week with host Aubrey Plaza on January 21 and Michael B. Jordan on January 28.